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I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag: A Memoir of a Life Through Events--the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don't Hardcover – May 15, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (May 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062075942
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062075949
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #656,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A savvy, often funny account of the ups and downs of building a business; a penetrating look at how [Gilbert] overcame the psychological scars of the attack; a warm and happy ending. You’ll laugh with her, you’ll learn from her, and you’ll be glad you made her acquaintance.” (Parade)

“Packed with funny stories about bridezillas and demented captains of industry, this is a fascinating tale of how we regain joy in the aftermath of unspeakable horror.” (People (3 ½ stars))

” It would be easy to get caught up in the chatty details of all the near-disasters Gilbert encounters in her fast-paced life in the world of event planning but this memoir is about more than cake and flowers.” (Library Journal)

“Breathtakingly honest, funny, and surprising, I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag is the unforgettable story of how, after a traumatic encounter in her twenties, Jennifer Gilbert found her way back to happiness. I couldn’t stop reading.” (Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project)

“This is a beautiful and brave memoir, full of hard-won wisdom. I read it in one sitting. It speaks from the heart and to the heart.” (Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion)

“What distinguishes Gilbert’s memoir from the inspirational survivor pack is her willingness to share the bumps along her road to recovery. . . . [A] likable memoir that shows we can choose to be more than the sum of those events that are beyond our control.” (Kirkus Reviews)

From the Back Cover

When Jennifer Gilbert was just a year out of college, a twenty-two-year-old fresh-faced young woman looking forward to a bright future, someone tried to cut her life short in the most violent way. But she survived, and not wanting this traumatic event to define her life, she buried it deep within and never spoke of it again.

She bravely launched a fabulous career in New York as an event planner, designing lavish parties and fairy-tale weddings. Determined to help others celebrate and enjoy life's greatest moments, she was convinced she'd never again feel joy herself. Yet it was these weddings, anniversaries, and holiday parties, showered with all her love and attention through those silent, scary years, that slowly brought her back to life.

Always the calm in the event-planning storm—she could fix a ripped wedding dress, solve the problem of an undelivered wedding cake in the nick of time, and move a party with two days' notice when disaster struck—there was no crisis that she couldn't turn into a professional triumph. Somewhere along the way, she felt a stirring in her heart and began yearning for more than just standing on the sidelines living vicariously through other people's lives. She fell in love, had her heart broken a few times, and then one day she found true love in a place so surprising that it literally knocked her out of her chair.

As Gilbert learned over and over again, no one's entitled to an easy road, and some people's roads are bumpier than others. But survive each twist and turn she does—sometimes with tears, sometimes with laughter, and often with both.

Warm, wise, alternately painful and funny, I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag is an inspiring memoir of survival, renewal, and transformation. It's a tale about learning to let go and be happy after years of faking it, proving that while we can't always control what happens to us, we can control who we become. And instead of anticipating our present in a goodie bag at the end of an event, we realize our presence at every event is the real gift.

More About the Author

Jennifer Gilbert is the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Save the Date, a New York-based special events company. She was the youngest--and the only woman--recipient of the Entrepreneur of the Year from Ernst & Young that year; she was awarded Working Woman's Entrepreneurial Award of Excellence; and her company was named among the top 500 woman-owned businesses. A frequent speaker, she has appeared at New York University, Columbia Business School, and at numerous industry events. She lives in New York City with her husband and their three children. Visit her website at www.savethedate.com.

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Customer Reviews

I read this book in two days and could not put it down.
She is an inspiration, and I'm thrilled that she's shared her story of survival with us.
Diane Watkins
The book is very well written, brutally honest, funny and above all inspiring.
Miss Kitty

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By hbw on October 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
write a review on a book I haven't completed. I was intrigued by this story and looking forward to reading a book with real emotions and the story of a self made woman. I happened to see that she was going to be on a show called Million Dollar Shoppers that is on Lifetime (I confess, I can't quit watching Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition and saw the preview for Million Dollar Shoppers while watching it). The show chronicles the lives of people who shop for wealthy people so the rich people don't have to waste time with something as mundane as shopping. When I saw Jennifer Gilbert was going to be on I decided to DVR it.

I won't go into how horrible the other people on this show acted (except - Alisa-Maria and her "Glam Squad" were unbelievably rude and tacky). But I was shocked by how condescending and cruel Jennifer Gilbert was to Amy Salinger (her personal shopper). She kept putting her fingers in her ears and saying that Amy was talking to loudly. I thought, "okay, after all she's been through she needs a quiet environment to feel comfortable" (though she plans events which tend to be loud and busy, but I digress). But at one point she grabs Amy's arm because she didn't like something she showed her or said or something and you could tell it hurt Amy. So this woman who was attacked and was being honored at a luncheon for having the courage and strength to put her life together and write a book about her experience some 20 or so years later, basically attacked her personal shopper because she, "spoke too loudly and couldn't find the right bargain dress for her big luncheon." This is probably not the forum for this review but I was so disappointed in the way the author behaved I really don't think can finish the book and wish I had not paid for it.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Kramer Bussel VINE VOICE on March 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I read a lot of memoirs, and was drawn to this one because of the title. It sounded cute and fun. What I got instead was one of the best memoirs I've ever read. Jennifer Gilbert's story is one I think all women in New York City, certainly (and elsewhere!) should read, as she opens up about the attack by a stranger that almost killed her, and then how she coped with it, both in healthy and less healthy ways. She is searingly honest about how the attack affected her closest relationships, with friends, family and romantic partners, how it helped drive her event planning business, Save the Date, and how it affected her process of getting pregnant. I stayed up late to finish this, utterly inspired by Gilbert's drive, her ability to, sometimes grudgingly, love herself, learn how to be a better person and let go of the shame she held onto around her attack. She goes back to topics she'd gone over earlier and gives different perspectives as she moves through major life passages, like becoming a mother.

Gilbert is humble, as well as humbled by what she's been through, and while I got many lessons out of this book, the biggest one is that what you look like on the outside isn't always how you feel on the inside. I'm sure this is something everyone instinctively knows, but when you read about Gilbert's hiding of her scars, facing her attacker in court, her chasing after unavailable men until finally welcoming love (with some cold feet along the way), learning from her children that once you start on a course of action, no matter how instinctual and habitual it feels, that you can always change, was incredibly moving. Gilbert writes, "The scariest step is always the first one." In this memoir, she takes multiple first steps, both literally, and figuratively.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Chris on July 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was so excited to get this book because I read great reviews. It was so bad that I couldn't finish it. While I feel bad for Jennifer, her attack was terrible, half way through the book I felt she thought very highly of herself and she became obnoxious. I didn't like they way she portrayed herself, she could get into any night club, even when lines were down the street. She could fix any problem and had no trouble frequently patting herself on the back. By saying a if these things in the book I felt less and less connected to this victim. I started out feeling sorry for her and ended up thinking she is self absorbed and arrogant. Not worth the money.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Bell VINE VOICE on February 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Albert Einstein said, "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction."

For years, Jennifer Gilbert, "Chief Visionary Office" and founder of "Save The Date," has focused on other people, committing herself to helping them celebrate milestones and lifetime achievements, sometimes with grandiose events. In this autobiography, she shines her spotlight inward with laser-edged awareness, revealing her insecurities, motivations, frailties and strengths.

In Part One, the author recounts the horrific attack she endured at the hands of a stranger and the aftermath that left her questioning "everything" and what might have caused it to happen. Through sheer determination, the former "happy-go-lucky" girl from the suburbs created a life for herself in New York City.

With the help of a good therapist, Gilbert began to loosen "the tight grip" on her emotions, dedicating herself to relationships and her work. It's impressive and inspirational to realize that this ultra-successful event planner (whose company grossed $30 million one year) began by making "cold calls" at a small company, "working non-stop" for $18,000 plus commission. She recounts some amusing stories about events, throughout the years, that nearly spiraled out of control. Her creative solutions to the problems that inevitably arose demonstrated a touch of genius.

The author also gives a logical narration of her years of dating and how she came to commit to her long-time friend, her "rock," Bennett, their subsequent "surprise wedding," difficulty getting pregnant (and IVF), and parenthood. I appreciated her overall honesty and snippets of humor, and I marveled at her courage, determination and personal growth.

Compelling subject matter and highly polished prose made this a "super fast read."
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